Laura L. Murphy

Embracing complexity and promoting design capabilities for a better world

I teach, learn, research, document, and write from a base at in New Orleans. I am a transdisciplinary scholar with interests in human-environment interactions, technology and science studies, and how can we change the fossil-fuel based world. This led me in a round-about way to social innovation and design thinking.

Find presentations, articles and other materials under Projects. Find my course syllabi and workshops under Teaching & Learning. I welcome collaboration in fieldwork and writing projects. I sometimes have funding.

I am interested in: the causes of tropical deforestation, the asset-based livelihoods of the poor, the implications of the African HIV/AIDS epidemic, the social shaping of technologies—such as mobile phones in Kenya and kitchen gardens in rural Africa, wicked problems and how we think about them.

I am working on a theory of social innovation, making the case for teaching design thinking to build design capabilities. I am wondering if this might help us better address the issue of our time: global climate change and its nefarious and unpredictable but inevitable impacts.

I have a faculty appointment in the Department of Community Health and Behavioral Sciences (GCHB. Tulane University in New Orleans, where I teach MPH and other students elements of critical development theory and practice. I am affiliated with the Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane and offer a weekend workshop in field methods. I am Associate Director of the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking (Taylor), where I lead our strategy, co-curricular teaching, and research around/on design for social impact. Download my academic CV here.

My formal education includes undergraduate training (BS, 19830 at Stanford University in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Values, Technology & Society. I earned a doctorate at UNC-Chapel Hill in City & Regional Planning (1998). My informal education includes living and working around the world. I have worked in private, government, non-profit and academic settings over several decades.

Some highlights of my formal employment record: our family-run Yosemite Airlines in Columbia, California (1975-79), the Indonesian Environmental Forum in Jakarta (1983-1986), program officer at the Canadian High Commission in Kenya (1988-1991), starting up the Population Environment Research Network, 2000-2002.

Highlights of informal employment in the caring economy: cooking! raising my son!